Friday, February 16, 2018

gun control word vomit

I posted this on Facebook this morning, but I wanted to keep these thoughts handy so I can reflect later. And in a few weeks, any hope of finding this post again would be relegated to lots and lots of scrolling, unless I wait 365 days from today and let it show up on TimeHop.

Addressing the mass shooting in Parkland, Florida.

The following is what I call "gun control word vomit", several paragraphs loosely held together with one very tragic common thread.

As a very right wing conservative, I have been trying for two days to understand why asking for universal background checks is a bad idea.

I am all for the 2nd amendment, and even though I personally do not like guns, I support your right to own as many as you want, if obtained and operated legally. I support your right to own as many unnecessarily big guns, bazookas, tanks and the like, as long as you fall under the laws as set for by your state and our federal government.

But I also believe that there needs to be a paper trail for every gun owned in our country. There should be an age minimum for purchasing a gun -- 18, maybe even 21 (though its hard to argue you can die for our country in a firefight overseas at 18 and not be allowed to purchase until 21 here). Is that hard to do? You betcha. But if someone does what happened the other day, I want to know where that gun came from and if it should have been on the streets. And maybe with 300 million firearms in the country, its a task that retroactively isn't even feasible to attempt.

Which brings us to background checks. I'm for them. All of them. Anyone who sells a gun to someone needs to know who they are selling them too. Those convicted of violent crimes should not have the right to possess a weapon. Those charged and/or convicted with stalking, abuse and the like should not, at least temporarily, have the right to possess a weapon. Those who are diagnosed with certain mental illnesses should not be able to own a gun.

Personally, I don't think you can just walk into a gun shop, plunk down $150 and immediately walk out with a firearm. And I'm not sure it's all that easy at a gun show.

I don't think there are mile-wide loopholes at gun shows as portrayed by the anti-gun lobby, but I do think there are enough to be addresses. And I'm willing to adjust my opinion on all of this if someone gives me something that makes me think "Oh yeah, that's why universal background checks are not a great idea..."

My conservative friends will tell me this goes too far. My liberal friends will tell me this doesn't go far enough.

All of that said... none of this would have prevented what happened in Parkland. None of it. Perhaps this kid being unable to legally purchase a gun would have made it harder, but I have no doubt that he would have procured a weapon in another manner... when you are hellbent on the revenge you think you are owed, few things can stop you.

Finally, this falls on one person. That 19 year old punk jackwagon who decided to shoot up a school. This isnt Trump's fault, unless you want to fault him for not doing enough to stem the unmonitored purchase of guns. If so, then you can also blame Obama, George W and Clinton, as all had legislation that addressed gun show loop holes come up in their admin, and all died before a vote -- and at various times, Congress was controlled by both sides of the aisle.

Also, this isn't an NRA problem. Ben Shapiro reported that the NRA donated 200 million to their causes from 1998 to 2017 -- and likely most of that was for Republican causes. Unions donated almost 2 billion in the 2016 election, and nearly all of that was for Democratic causes. None of these shooters were members of the NRA, and the NRA didn't put the guns in their hands.

So here's my position. Stop the yelling at people about how the GOP only cares about babies before they were born, and stop using the Democratic line "There have been 18 school shootings this year alone!". The former is an incredibly stupid position to take, and the latter is an incredibly stupid talking point that has no basis (The Washington Post of all places debunked it, though I gave 15 minutes of research to it and knew half the story before they printed).

But also understand that Dems (at least most of them) aren't seeking to take away the 2nd Amendment, and many of them understand that banning guns is a completely impossible task.

Stop with the "rest of the world doesn't have this problem because they banned guns!" rhetoric. Many other countries also throw gay people off of roofs and throw acid in women's faces for speaking up about being raped, so I think our country of 330 million is doing okay in that manner.

Finally, banning the AR-15 does nothing. Because another gun will take its place. Oh, by the way, I also discovered that AR doesn't stand for Assault Rifle. It stands for ArmaLite, which is a brand name. The AR-15 isn't much different from a standard rifle, even though it looks like a machine gun. Its the (likely illegal) modifications made on such guns that cause the rapid fire, otherwise the shooter would be pulling the trigger on each shot, and would probably wear out from fatigue much faster.

If a GOP or Dem talking point looks funny, or unbelievable, look it up. Read a little and learn, which is the best way to formulate any argument.

This is my gun control word vomit, and will be so until someone gives me facts that make me think otherwise.

Thursday, February 15, 2018

the top ten books of 2017

A few weeks ago... well, 10 days ago... which is shocking, because I feel like I'm at a pace where I'm putting a winter solstice between posts, but recently, I listed the books I read in 2017, giving a brief synopsis and recommending most of them... not all of them, thought (I'm looking at you, "The Circle") but most.

My favorite book of 2014, a book I think
everyone should read. Its life changing.
But there were ten books that I wanted to mention in this post, which are my Top Ten Books of 2017.  The ones I enjoyed the most, relished as I read, put them away mentally for a possible re-read later, or that actually made me aware of how dusty it is in this room.  Seriously, two books did that for me.

So, what book will join the list of Fave Books of the Year, a list that includes Stephen King's "Doctor Sleep" (my fave book of 2013)... Carlos Whittaker's "Moment Maker" (my fave book of 2014)... Andy Weir's "The Martian" (my fave book of 2015)... and Michael Lewis' "The Big Short" (my fave book of 2016)? 

First, folow @TheDaveofPop  on Instagram for nearly daily book and movie reviews, where all of these books were originally reviewed after being read.

Now let's see the list and find out the list, shall we?

My 10th Favorite Book of 2017
"The Great Beanie Baby Bubble: Mass Delusion and the Dark Side of Cute" by Zac Bissonnette. Yes, this book is about the origins and business of those little plush animals with the red, heart shaped tag, those same ones that were supposed to be insanely valuable now and would pay your way through college. This was one of those books I circled for a while, and finally landed on, and it was delightful in the weirdest way. It chronicles the rise, fall and sort of rise of Ty Warner, founder of the Ty Company, and... well, how he's a total jackwagon. To everyone. That tag line of "Mass Delusion..." fits this journey perfectly. (it's also got another subtitle in some places, that being "The Amazing Story of How America Lost It's Mind Over a Plush Toy--And the Eccentric Genius Behind it")

My 9th Favorite Book of 2017
"Reasons to Be Pretty" by Neil LaBute.  This is a stage play written by one of my two favorite playwrights (David Mamet being the other), and right at the top, we learn that Greg has said something fairly stupid to his girlfriend Steph.  But we also learn that Steph has a flair for the overdramatic, which means she fits perfectly with their best friends Kent and Carly, two people also deeply flawed for various reasons. The sequel is called "Reasons to Be Happy", which I enjoyed, but I loved how this book/play unfolded.

My 8th Favorite Book of 2017
"Yes Please" by Amy Poehler.  When I read Tina Fey's "Bossypants", I wasn't sure I'd enjoy this book as much. I mean, "Bossypants" is hilarious, and Tina is smoking hot (two things that can potentially draw me to a book) so how could Amy compete?  She did. And more. This book is absolutely hysterical, riffing on everything from celebrity, to SNL to motherhood and marriage and life on Parks & Rec and life in general, and with her reading the audiobook, her delivery is nearly perfect. So good.

Available in paperback or Kindle. Quick
read, too... less than 200 pages

My 7th Favorite Book of 2017
"Catch Somewhere" by Megan Hall. This is the sweet story of a young lady named Kinsley who faces what so many girls do -- heartache in high school. Kins, as she's nicknamed, takes her pain out in other ways, however, through an addiction that is all too common, but having never been a 15 year old girl (nor playing one on TV), its something I don't understand. Megan Hall writes in a "dramedy" sort of manner, with a few funny pop culture references, but the story shines through the characters Hall puts around Kinsley, including a best friend and a Bible study coed. I'm not in the audience demo, but I enjoyed this very much and even found myself a little misty eyed at the "reunion" towards the end.  Got me right in the feels. Full disclosure, Megan is a friend of mine, but I can truthfully say that I wouldn't have put her book on this list had I not felt it deserving.  Also... I really like where the title comes in. It's... it's... pure.

My 6th Favorite Book of 2017
"I'll Have What She's Having: How Nora Ephron's Three Iconic Films Saved The Romantic Comedy" by Erin Carlson.  My favorite movie of all time is "You've Got Mail", so how could I resist a book that takes you behind the scenes of not just that, but "When Harry Met Sally" and "Sleepless in Seattle".  You get untold stories of casting, anecdotes from the set, and everyone from Meg Ryan to Rob Reiner to Tom Hanks to Billy Crystal and more giving their stories and insight.  Director Nora Ephron led a complicated life, and this book doesn't shy away from talking about that either, as she had plenty of personal crises during the making of each of these modern day classics. I loved the intimacy of  this book, and I recommend it for movie fans.

My 5th Favorite Book of 2017
You can read this without the others, but
I would highly recommend Start above any of
the four. 
"Finish: Give Yourself the Gift of Done" by Jon Acuff.  This is the final book in the Acuff Career Quadrology (which includes "Quitter", "Start" and "Do Over"), and this book is exactly what it sounds like -- getting stuff done. The whole idea is that it's easy to "Start" something, and it's even somewhat to just do-over... but finishing is the hardest part without just throwing your hands up, becoming a "Quitter".  (Hey Acuff -- see what I did there? Eh? You can email me to set up a time to be on your podcast).  Whether its a goal of losing weight or finishing a book or starting a book or getting your career in some facsimile of order, or maybe even getting your personal life figured out, this book will give you the guidance and encouragement needed.  And it's pretty funny, especially the audiobook.

My 4th Favorite Book of 2017
"Wonder" by R.J. Palacio.  Another book that I had picked up and set back on the shelf about 70 times before I decided to give it a whirl -- which I only did because my Dear Friend Janna has a cute kid who recommended it to me.  And honestly, I didn't want it to end. Little Auggie Pullman suffers from a severe facial deformity and is headed to public school for the first time. Of course, he faces the harsh reality of cruel kids around him, but also the warmth of a few random kids who decide to stand by him. We see the school year not just from his eyes, but also from his neglected sister Via, his best friend Jack Will (one of my favorite characters in this or any book in a long time), and Via's former BFF Miranda, who's perspective is very surprising. And when the "honor guard" is mentioned at the end... I mean... I wanted to openly weep. I'm a dad, so it hit me. I cannot recommend this book enough not just to kids and young adults, but anyone.  Also, see the movie.  It's not as in-depth as the book, but its wonderful too.

My 3rd Favorite Book of 2017
"The Disaster Artist: My Life Inside the Room, The Greatest Bad Movie Ever Made" by Greg Sestero. The title doesn't lie here... "The Room" is one of the greatest bad movies ever made... and when I say "bad", it's not like "Employee of the Month" Dane Cook bad... nay, its bad. I mean horrendously awful bad. And its written and directed by Tommy Wisseau, a man who believes he truly belongs in the Hollywood elite. Sestero was Tommy's closest friend for many years, and starred in the movie with Tommy, and this book is a great glimpse into the insanity of the film's production -- a film where the writing, the acting, the plots make no sense, weirdly named characters like "Chris-R" shows up for no reason to start a plot point that never pays off, or a mom's mentioning having cancer only to never be brought up again.  This book is maddening and nuts and hysterical, all at the same time. (Also, the movies is pretty great too... my 3rd fave film of 2017)

My 2nd Favorite Book of 2017
"David & Goliath: Underdogs, Misfits, and the Art of Battling Giants" by Malcolm Gladwell.  This guy is a great writer, and he does something that many books likes this fail to do -- challenge me and my opinions without belittling those very opinions I hold.  This is the story of the underdog, and how decisions made by "the little guy" can affect how the stack up against "the big guy". There is a story of the student who makes the decision to go to an Ivy League school instead of a lesser, but still great, school -- and the consequences it causes. There's a great look at the "three strikes law" in California and why it might be a bad idea, and a great take on the Biblical story of David & Goliath -- and why David actually matched up to the giant better than most people thing. Loved it.

There's just so much about this book that
is awesome -- but its got some language
and a non-PC culture throughout. 
And finally, My Favorite Book of 2017  
"Friday Night Lights: A Town, A Team, and a Dream" by Buzz Bissenger. This is the book that begat the movie that begat the TV show, all of which are classics now. Texas considers Friday night football not just a rite of passage, but darn near a religion, much like it is throughout the South.  Bissinger moved into Odessa, Texas, and spent a year there among the people, including the staff, coaches and football players of Permian High School, home of the Permian Panthers. The book chronicles the lives of a handful of players, from the tragic injury to Boobie Miles (until then, a near sure thing for college and NFL) to the good but not great QB Mike Winchell to the player who seeks to become a pastor, Ivory Christian to the embattled coach, Gary Gaines. It takes place in the 1988 season, which is just recent enough to make Odessa a modern town but still not recent enough to shed the racism and poverty which pervades the town. This is an amazing book, beautifully, if not toe-steppingly written, and it unfolds game by game, as the Panthers seek a return to the title game, living a "championship or bust" mentality the entire year.  Loved this book.

So there's my Top Ten of last year.  I've got a goal of 50 books this year, and I'm already way behind, as Stephen & Owen King's "Sleeping Beauties" was a 28 hour listen, and I'm in the midst of another 28 hour listen, "Live from New York", the oral history of Saturday Night Live by James A Miller and Tom Shales.

But I can recommend to you "One of Us is Lying" by Karen McManus -- a smart, funny, and clever whodunit with a Breakfast Club setting.

Now... back to the books.

Monday, February 05, 2018

the not top ten books of 2017

One of the things I started doing in 2013 was keeping a list of books read... or "read", I should say, as there is some question as to whether "audiobooks" is considered reading.  But you could also contest if graphic novels or plays would count as books (I count those too), so each person really has to come up with their own qualifications and rules. 

If you count the books I read (but didn't officially list) in 2012, in six years, I've managed to get through 204 books.  That's nothing compared to some of my friends, like Jessica Jobes, who reads 150 books a year or something.  But 204 is a big deal to me! 

Also, in six years, I've clocked 1773 hours and 42 minutes of read time, meaning I could reread everything I've read starting tonight, and it would take me until April 17th to finish.  I impress myself.  Again, there are those who see these numbers, shake their head and know they've already done 200 books since the beginning of the year, but for someone who didn't read much of anything from 1995 to 2012, I'll take it.  

So I will be posting my Top Ten Books of 2017, but I wanted to give a quick rundown of all the other books I read last year as well.

These are in no particular order:

SELF HELP/BUSINESS
"Free Prize Inside" by Seth GodinThe sorta sequel to "Purple Cow", its all about outside the box marketing. Its a great read for business. 

"29 Gifts: How a Month of Giving Can Change Your Life" by Cami Walker. The author was 33 when she was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis. She then sought to give 29 gifts in 29 days, and you can follow along here.

MEMOIRS/BIOS
"Without You" by Anthony Rapp I like Rapp's work in "Adventures in Babysitting", "Rent" and other projects, but I found this memoir to be... well, boring. I hate to say that about someone else's story, as mine would likely be boring too, but it just wasn't for me. 

"The Princess Diarist" by Carrie Fisher. Fisher's final book before her death dives into the 1977 production of "Star Wars", or the stories behind it, including her love of Harrison Ford. Won the Grammy for Best Spoken Word, and though I wasn't crazy about all of it, I enjoyed it. 

"The Best In the World (at what I have no idea)" by Chris Jericho. Tons of WWE backstage stories, including the accident that gave Undertaker 3rd degree burns on his chest before he went into a steel cage match. 

"My Seinfeld Year" by Fred Stoller. He was a writer on Seinfeld and he tells a few stories. Meh. 

"Your Inner Critic is a Big Jerk (and other truths about being creative) by Danielle Krysa. This book isn't targeted to me, its targeted to crafty women. Like, literally knitting and creative women. 

"Scribe" by Bob Ryan. He's been around the Boston sports scene for decades, and sports in general, and this isn't so much a memoir as it is a collection of stories from his life in it. Tales of Red Sox, Bobby Knight, Patriots, Celtics, the 92 Dream Team, his love for John Havlicek and more. Honestly, I enjoyed Al Michael's memoir more, but "Scribe" is also great for sports fans. 

STEPHEN KING
"Skeleton Crew" by Stephen King. A short story collection that was a slog to get through. Some stories were solid, many were tedious. 

"The Gunslinger: The Dark Tower" by Stephen King. I put this off for a long time, knowing that if I liked it, I would be sucked into the other 7 Dark Tower books -- books that are 25 and 30 hour commitments each. Thankfully, I didn't care for this book at all, so there goes any thought of me having to read the rest of them. 

"Gwendy's Button Box" by Stephen King & Richard Chizmar.  Another case of "does it count?", with this being a novella. And yes, I counted it because you can purchase it as a standalone book. Its a fun story that will end up leaving you with more questions than answers. 

SOCIETY/NON-FICTION
"Fast Food Nation" by Eric Schlosser. If you don't want to know where your food comes from, about the gross mistreatment of some farmers, the political side of fast food franchising or the history of food additives, stay away from this book. Otherwise, its a fascinating read. 

"Powerhouse CAA: The Untold History of Hollywood's Creative Artists Agency" by James Andrew Miller. I'm a sucker for a good oral history, and for 75% of this book, I was completely riveted. It tells the story of the formation and rise of CAA, a huge talent agency in Hollywood, and its key driver, Michael Ovitz.  Dozens of stars like Tom Hanks and Bill Murray share their opinions and experiences as well, and it was great... but when Ovitz left, the book just kind of tailspins into a revolving door of people coming and going at CAA and it loses something.  The first 20 hours would make my 2017 Top Ten. The last 5 keeps it from the list. 

"Shattered: Inside Hillary Clinton's Doomed Campaign" by Jonathan Allen & Amie Parnes. This book was actually pretty funny, and I believe it a darn site more than I do Michael Wolff's Trump book.  Why?  Because even Wolff has disputed the accuracy of his own book, while very few have come out against "Shattered" on the DNC side. Hillary's campaign was a mess, and this book tells why.

"The Shift: One Nurse, Twelve Hours, Four Patients Lives" by Theresa Brown, RN.  Chronicling one night in the shift of a nurse who has been in the profession a long time and has seen a lot. Tells the stories of four patients in various stages of emergencies (not everyone makes it out alive). Enjoyable. 

"When to Rob a Bank... and 131 More Warped Suggestions and Well Intended Rants" by Steven Levitt & Stephen Dubner.  The Freakonomics guys gathered their decades worth of newspaper articles and essays they wrote and compiled some of the best into this volume. Why does KFC run out of chicken? Why flight attendants don't get tipped? How do you curb gun deaths? Should there by a sex tax? This is a great read, but know that you are wading literally 132 essays. 

HISTORICAL THINGS
"Bill O'Reilly's Legends & Liars: The Patriots" by David Fisher. I've found the "Legends & Liars" series to be really great, and this collection of little known stories and anecdotes from the Revolutionary War was awesome. 

"Bill O'Reilly's Legends & Liars: The Civil War" by David Fisher. Everything I just said about "The Patriots", except about the Civil War. 

DISNEY STUFF
"The Shadow of the Matterhorn" by David W. Smith. If your uncle told you stories of his cool job he used to have, and kept referring to chicks he hooked up with at his job, that's this book.  A former cast member dishes on his time at Disneyland, and while some of it is kinda fun, much of it is awkward and random. 

FICTION
"The Circle" by Dave Eggers. I hated this book. I hated everyone in the book. I didn't care what happened to anyone.  The movie was just as bad. 

"Camino Island" by John Grisham. A departure from his courtroom dramas, this is a book about stolen rare manuscripts, slick bookstore owners and a chick undercover trying to solve the case. A quick and fun read.

"Rooster Bar" by John Grisham. While I liked the story itself, the main problem I had with it was seeing the three protagonists -- the "heroes" of our story -- shirk all of their responsibilities, which include paying back their student loans because they went to a crappy college. Proceed with caution, you may not like anyone in this book. 

"Hollow World" by Nick Pobursky. Disney World fiction with lots of violence, death, hostages, language and a fat crime boss.  Count me in!! 

"A Series of Unfortunate Events: The Bad Beginning" by Lemony Snicket. Another series that I wanted to read, letting the first book determine if I was going to continue.  Though I enjoyed this more than the Dark Tower, it still wasn't enough to push me to read the other books. I looked up the plots on Wikipedia, and am happy with that. 

"Good Girl" by Mary Kubica. Mia Dennett is abducted early in this novel, and we are treated to various perspectives of the story, including lead investigator Detective Hoffman, Mia's mom, and the kidnapper himself. Though not as brutal as "Gone Girl", its in the same vein. I guessed the ending about 1/2 way through the book, but it was still a fun resolution. 

POP CULTURE
"I'm Your Biggest Fan" by Kate Coyne. A celebrity writer dishes on stories about George Michael, Wynonna Judd, Tom Cruise and stalking Mariska Hargitay.  I really liked the pop cultureyness of this. 

"As If! The Oral History of Clueless" by Jen Cheney. This is the book about the movie Clueless that you didn't know you needed. From screenwriting to pitching it to studios to casting to filming to the movie's release, this is the story of the movie as told by director Amy Heckerling, Jeremy Sisto,  Paul Rudd, Donald Faison, Stacey Dash, and of course, Alicia Silverstone, as well as many more. The best parts include detailed looked at the best, most iconic scenes of the movies, including the Rollin' with the Homies, the freeway scene, the kiss at the end, the Bosstones party, the origins of "cake boy" and much more. 

PLAYS/SCRIPTS
"Steel Magnolias" by Robert Harling. Love reading plays, and this one was super familiar because I love the movie. Of course, the play takes place entirely in Truvy's Beauty Shop, but overall is pretty close to the film. 

"Barefoot in the Park" by Neil Simon. The classic about Paul and Corie, newlyweds who immediately run into problems days after the wedding. It's warm and sweet and super fun. 

"Biloxi Blues" by Neil Simon. The story is narrated by Eugene (the play itself is the second in the "Eugene Trilogy", which includes "Brighton Beach Memoirs" and "Broadway Bound" - both read in early 2018) but really centers around the conflict between Pvt Epstein and the brash Sgt Toomey, in basic training amidst WWII.  Reminded me of the Matthew Broderick movie. 

 "Star Wars: The Original Radio Drama" from NPR.  Does this count as a book? Its the drama as played on National Public Radio. It was great. I count it. Sue me.

"Reasons to be Happy" by Neil LaBute. I'm a big LaBute fan, and this book picks up after the previous "Reasons to be Pretty", with the lives of Greg, Steph, Kent and Carly, all in different places, trying to carry on after the events of the first one. 

"The Money Shot" by Neil LaBute.  The story of 2 actors who's fame has dimmed, and are being forced to tell their significant others about a very intimate scene they have to film for a movie that will supposedly reignite their careers. Funny, if not darkly funny, but full of language, as many LaBute plays are.

And the re-reads:
"102 Minutes" by Jim Dwyer & Kevin Flynn. The best 9/11 book I've ever read.

"11/22/63" by Stephen King. I re-read this after seeing the meh mini-series on Hulu, and discovered I didn't like this book as much as I did the first time. Without spoiling the ending, you'll find the story comes to a very unsatisfactory ending.

"'Salem's Lot" by Stephen King. I love this book so much, mostly for how it slowly unfolds for lead character Ben Mears, who is returning to his childhood town to write a book. And the dark house  that overlooks the town, suddenly rented by two very mysterious figures. Great characters, and its 12 through the book before you understand what is truly happening to the town.  

So that's 35 books down. I'll list my Ten Favorites of the year in a day or two, when I write the post. 

If you want to follow along with books read, movies watched, TV seen and Amy Adams pictures inserted at random, check out @TheDaveofPop on instagram! 

Monday, January 01, 2018

those 2018 what ifs

It's a new year, it's an new me!

Not really. I'm the same guy I was yesterday, but I am filled with aspirations. I do this from time to time -- start the year out with #Goals, and then never go back and check.  As a matter of fact, I just now re-read my January 2014 post entitled "The Great 48", with 48 things I wanted to do in the coming year.

And some of them I accomplished. I watched (14) plenty of movies. Started a book (20) on my 500 favorite films.  I learned how to spell "Itinerary" (but "occasionally" still throws me off)... I managed to (36) plan magic for a lot more people... I took care (39) of the pictures... (42) I take Campbell to the park frequently... (43) We paid off the car and (44) I wrote letters, continued to (47) podcast and (48) bought several lunches. Some of the 48 I almost got to, some I never even really tried, and others I knocked out of the park, albeit a year or three later.

So this year, I had another list of random things to do for 2018.  They aren't resolutions, because resolutions can be broken - and with that broken resolution can come guilt and a sense of failure. I have no time for either one of those.

So, what if I could make a list of things to do?  What if I could get them done?

This list is really in no particular order, but one of things is to (1) write more.  See, over the last several years, this whole "What is my word for the year" thing came into fashion.  You gotta pick a word.  And that is your word for that year.  Fancy, important words like "Thrive" and "Resolve" and "Intention" and "Joy" and "Antidisestablishmentarianism". Okay, so that last one isn't a Year Word for anyone I know, but it could be.

My word this year?  "Write".  I'm good at it. Not as good as many, but better than some. Its something I've been working on since I was in 2nd grade, when I tried to write a play for my classmates to perform, and got as far as the first page before I realized none of my 2nd grade peers wanted to rehearse ("The Prince & the Princess" would have been a show-stopper). 

This year, I'm going "write". I'm going "Write" in (2) the form of blogging.  No goal, no set number of blogs, no "100 posts this year!" declaration. Just more blogging.  More posts.  More writing. Even if I do 4 per month, that's at least 48 this year.  After 87 posts in 2015, I managed only 21 TOTAL from 2015 to 2017, and that includes my 1000th post.

I thought of retiring the blog, but I just couldn't do it.  And people keep checking it, because like the narcissist I am, I do check the page views. And you people are checking for new stuff. So, thank you for that.

The book in its first draft. The first of many, many
drafts to come.
Also with "Write" comes (3) finishing the book.  Did you know I was writing a book. A few weeks ago, I was 67,000 words in, though after a little editing, I'm back down to 63,000.  I'm shooting for about 80K, maybe a little more -- its a movie book.  It's entitled, simply enough, "This is a Movie Book" (thanks for that title, dear friend Clay Shaver).  And its about my 500 favorite films of all time. More information on that to come.

By the end of the year, I want that book finished and I want it (4) ready to be sent to an editor (either The Peacock Quill or Shayla Raquel, with that decision to be made later).  I won't be able to afford an editor this year, but in 2019, expect it to hit bookshelves.

In 2016, I had a goal of 160 "new to me", as in, I'd never seen them before. I ended up watching 171 movies, both new in theaters, year old films that had hit streaming services and even some classics I just somehow missed ("Bachelor Party", anyone?).  New goal? (5) To watch 170 "new to me" movies.

(Speaking of podcasts... Don't forget The Deucecast Movie Show Over 300 episodes and still going strong, filled with movie reviews, celeb discussion, pop culture stuff and much more)

I don't talk much about TV, but there are three series that I'm bound and determined to blow through... I've only fully seen season one of (6) Gilmore Girls and never seen any of (7) The Wire and plan on finally knocking out both, episode by episode.

Long book, interesting story
Likewise, in 2016, I had a goal of 45 books read--both first time reads and re-reads count, and both on paper and via audiobook.  I got my 45th read on December 28th ("Wonder" by RJ Palacio).  (8) New goal?  50 books, but there will be a handful of graphic novels and short plays I want to read as well. I've got a handful of Neil Labute, August Wilson & David Mamet scripts at the ready.  The first book of the year completed will likely be (9) "Sleeping Beauties" by Stephen King & Owen King.  Its a 25 hour audiobook, and coming into January 1, I was 11 hours in.

Don't worry... like usual, you'll get my (10) Top Ten Books of the Year in the coming week or so.  I'm actually not even sure which one is number 1.

Back in July, I randomly started a fitness quest -- to run a mile in under 9 minutes or less.  So, every day I started running one mile on the treadmill at our local Planet Fitness.  And save for a few Sundays or so, I did just that for almost three months. My first mile clocked in at under 13 minutes, which for me was major, because I hadn't actually run a consecutive mile in many, many years.  In fact, the chick at Planet Fitness let me know that it had been over 3 years since I'd been back.  As I was on the cusp of turning 42, that means I legit hadn't worked out ever since I had turned 40.

The mile whittled down to around 9:30ish, and then, at the nearby indoor playground, I jumped on a trampoline with Campbell the Kid that was way too low and *BAM* landed (and bounced up) on the bum on the hard floor.  Leg injury.  And in usual d$ fashion, after the leg was okay, I didn't go back. So I will.  At some point sooner than later.  The goal is still (11) a mile in under 9 minutes.  That'll help in (12) losing that 20 pounds I've been trying to shed for years.

So many people to see again -- my friends (13) Clay Shaver and (14) Rick Theule are in Michigan, and I need to say hey, and I had so much fun talking to my friend (15) Amy Campbell while in Tulsa, I want to buy her a drink and just sit and chat.  When I make it to Nashville, I'd like to buy my friend (17) Anna Floit a drink. My friend (18) Bill Seybolt is in Atlanta, so buying he and (19) Bill Weeks a beer is easier.  Also in Atlanta is (20) Six Flags, which I do want to return to. Don't read anything into this... there are many names that I can name of people I want to see again, and hopefully will.  I need to find my buddy (21) Writer Chris Holmes and spend an hour making fun of Hillary.

The podcast, on iTunes, on Google Play, on Stitcher and
various places online. Go get it. 
Most likely, it would happen at the annual (22) Launch Out Conference I attend.  Last year was in Tulsa, and this year is in Nashville.  Last year I spoke what I considered to be a mediocre speech.  This year, (23) I want to give the speech of my life.  Already been working on it since this past August. That is if I am chosen to speak... it's never a guarantee they'll want to hear me.

Then there is the business stuff.  Magic on a Dollar Travel Planning is going well, and I'm somewhere around 350 vacations planned over the years.  For 2018 to be a big year, I'll need at least 150 trips planned... which means I will (24) plan my 500th vacation some time this year.  On the Facebook page, I'm close to 5600 LIKEs, so what if I could get to 6000?  Maybe even 7000?


I also started a new podcast, the Magic on a Dollar Podcast, and as of right now, its 13 episodes in.  It started super strong, and has leveled off dramatically. So the goal there? (25) A 250% increase in downloads this year.  The ultimate would be to make the (26) "New & Noteworthy" on iTunes, but that is a huge goal that may or may not be attainable.

In order for the show to get better, I've got to learn a few new skills... (27) editing, for one... and (28) being able to allow guests on the show for another.

Along with that is (29) getting my website finally finished.  Mostly, I just need content, which leads us back to... you guessed it, "Write".

Plus a handful of other things from my previous list that would be good to do this year... or do more of... (30) send out more birthday and anniversary cards... (31) pray more... (32) say hello to every person who ever rings up my purchases at a counter... (33) give grace before it's asked and (34) ask for grace before it's required... (35) clean out that garage... (36) do something extraordinary. What you ask? I have no idea. I'll know it when it happens.  

Can you believe it's been out for three months, and I still don't own (37) Taylor Swift's new album, nor the new live album by (38) The Dixie Chicks.  Will remedy that in the next week or so.

Haaaay Tay...
Finally, in the back closet of our home sits my extensive comic book collection. One of my long term goals is to collect every issue of the (39) Uncanny X-Men from #200 to #544, which is the the end of its original run, and then the (40) Fantastic Four, issues #300 to #645, which is it's original run's ending.  I'm probably less than 200 issues combined from completing both desired runs. But you can't buy issues on sale if you don't know which ones you are missing.  So its likely time to (41) sort through the comics, sell some, give some out and pare it down.

Okay. There's a list of things to do this year. What if I could get these things done?  What if I could get half of these things done?

What if I buckled down and had victory after victory.

What if?

We already started the "WRITE" way.  See what I did there? Okay, okay, I'm rusty, but I'll get my groove back soon enough.

Follow d$'s personal stuff on Instagram at @davedollar, and keep up with the movies, music, TV and books on @TheDaveofPop, and follow the magic of Disney @Magiconadollar. 

Then Go Subscribe and download the Magic on a Dollar Podcast, and The Deucecast Movie Show Podcast.


Friday, December 01, 2017

to campbell, on your 6th birthday

Dear Campbell,

Yesterday, your Mom and I were sitting at the dining room table, watching you jump up and down on your trampoline, then run over and watch the YouTube video of Melissa & Artur play on Tayo the Little Bus. 
You look like you are a miniature version of
a 14 year old in this picture. Seriously.

"Can you believe he's going to be six years old?" I asked your mom.
"Let's not even talk about it." she replied with a sigh. 

You made us smile. You always make us smile.  Well, let's be honest, not always... sometimes you drive us up the flippin' wall.  Sometimes you test our patience, sometimes you frustrate us, and sometimes you make us want to open the door and shout random unpleasant words into the night because we are so agitated at your disobedience.

But those times? Those times are few.  Mostly, you make us smile.

First, though, let's talk about the year since your birthday.  2017 has been... well, interesting to the say the least. 

As far as movies go, "Wind River" has been my favorite thusfar, though I don't expect you to see that for a long time. Several Marvel movies came out, like "Guardians of the Galaxy Vol 2", "Thor Ragnarok" and "Spiderman Homecoming", and all were excellent. I look forward to the day when you get into superheroes like this, and we can watch these films together.

Other movies that I enjoyed that maybe you and I can watch one day include "Baby Driver" and "Kong Skull Island" and the new Pixar movie "Coco". Your Mom and I are actually talking about taking you to see that one, letting it be your first movie theater movie ever.  But... we'll see.

I couldn't tell you a thing about music, other than Taylor Swift has a new album out, which I'll probably get and make you listen to.  And while I am doing a ton of audiobooks, I have no idea what came out this year or last, so I'm no help there either. 

As far as the world news, President Donald Trump has been in charge for almost a year now, and though he's had some hits, he's had some misses.  The news is crazy every day, so I won't even try to talk about the headlines in 2017.

Your first ice cream... well, it was sorbet, but as
far as you are concerned, it was "I's Cray"
You had some awesome milestones this year, including trying ice cream for the very first time! Strawberry sorbet from Whole Foods!  You also had your first Popsicle ever, an avocado popsicle at Steel City Pops. You ate both pretty fast and wanted more... I don't blame you.

You learned how to swim this past summer!  Ms Kerri taught you in only a few days (you still ask for "wah pay", which is "water play") and you visited your first water park, Splash Adventure, where you rode water slide after water slide after water slide. It was a testament to how good your potty training skills are because you always ask to go.  One of the few times you peed your pants this whole year was when I couldn't get you to the bathroom in time while at Splash Adventure.

Yes, you spent the whole day at a water park, but refused to pee in the pools, you wanted to go to a toilet.  Good job, kid, good job.

Campbell, you are talking like crazy now. I used to pray every night that one day you would, and somewhere around January or February of this year, you just started.  Words came slowly at first, but then quicker and quicker.  You can tell us what you want to watch now...

...okay, by the way, I have no idea what you'll be watching when you do read this, but let me tell you, not only do you dig on this show called PJ Masks (three 6 year olds put on special pajamas and become night time crime fighters)... but you love the Muppets, which makes your Dad VERY proud, especially when you see Kermit and say "KAH-MAT!!"... and you love Mickey's Roadster Racers, which is a lesser replacement for Mickey Mouse Clubhouse... and for some reason, you are now into this YouTube Channel called "MelliArt", which are these two kids named Melissa & Artur in all these videos that teach colors and numbers and fruit names and vehicle names and such.  I did the research, and apparently it hails from Greece -- you can tell by the accents of the kids and the dad, who seems nice.  Anyway, YOU LOVE that stuff.  You ask to watch "TAYO BUS" every day, and you don't just mean the Tayo the Little Bus show... you want to watch the video with the kids on the Tayo toy bus singing "Wheels on the Bus".  This is a testament to how much Mom and Dad love you, because we hear that song being sung in a slightly greek accent in our sleep now.  Aye yi yi.

Okay, back to your words...

Yes, you tell us what you want to watch when we ask... you say "please" (sounds like "peas") when you ask for things... earlier today, you went to the potty ALL BY YOURSELF (I only came to check when I heard no more splashing in the water)... you are talking SO MUCH now, and its so wonderful.

And we know you love music, because you are doing great on your piano lessons. And how you ask your Mommy to sing "Let It Go" and "Do You Wanna Build a Snowman" to you every night when you are taking a bath -- you went through a phase where you wanted to watch "Rio 2" and "Frozen" every day, and though those aren't requested much anymore, you still love the songs.  Nothing is sweeter than hearing your voice down the hall ask your Mom "Sing Lah Go peas" or "Sing Sno-mah peas" ("sing Let It Go please" and "sing Snowman please")

We always worry about you making friends... not that you can't make friends, but we hope that friends will find you, and boy, you have some this year.  It's a hoot watching you play with your classmate Barrett, and especially his little brother Fitz, who you seem to just love to chase and be around.  And I know you like Piper and Spencer and Eli because you call out their names when you see them.

I know that "imagination" is still something you are working on, as well as "creative playing"... meaning, you and I can't just sit down together and have an adventure with LEGOs or action figures -- but you are starting to get there. I watching you walk the little people figures up the toy airplane steps and I watch you mime and simulate actions that you see us do (scary) and I know your little brain is just absorbing and churning.

And I am so happy that you finally attached yourself to something like PJ Masks.  Catboy, Gekko and Owlette aren't just random names you see on TV... you know who they are, you identify with what they do, and you say their names with recognition.  Campbell, son, that's a big deal for you.

Your Mother and I love you so, so much, and we are so proud of you, Campbell.  I feel like you've developed more this year than you ever have, and its been so great to watch.  You have lots of fans too -- lots of people I know in person and online ask about you, root for you, pray for you, and really want to meet you one day.

Six is going to be a big year for you too -- more swimming lessons, more bike lessons and next fall, real public school. We are petrified. You'll be awesome.

In fact, I wrote this entire letter on this page and didn't even think of the word "Autism" until I started linking previous letters to you at the bottom... and then thought "Oh yeah... my kid has the autism. But autism can suck it."  It just shows that Autism isn't going to hold you back. I believe that, I truly do.

Now, here's the lesson I wanted to teach you.  This is important, listen up... "Respect" has become a big deal in this current day we live in.  There have been lots of news stories about people -- mostly men -- who have shown lots of disrespect to others -- mostly women -- in the way they talk to them, treat them and yes, even try to touch them and be with them in ways that aren't nice or proper or appropriate. 

"Respect" means that you treat someone you know (or someone you don't) with kindness.  It means you don't say or do anything to make them feel bad about themselves, or to make you look like you are better than them.  "Respect", especially when it comes to girls, is something that you need to always show.  If you ever show the kind of disrespect to a woman that we are seeing in the news lately, you'll have me and your mom to answer to. I don't care if you are 14 or 45.

We love you, but we need you to understand that many people aren't respectful out there.  Sometimes people won't respect you, son, sometimes people will say and do things to you and around you that will try to make you feel bad. That will try to make you feel like you aren't as good as anyone else. Don't listen to that nonsense.

You were created by God and given to me and your Mom exactly how you were meant to be.  Sometimes its been challenging, other times its been wonderful, and then so many times its just between all of that.

Remember that God loves you more than anyone ever would or could -- as much as Mom and I love you, which is more than you can imagine, God loves you even more.  We pray that one day, when you grasp the concept, you'll find Jesus in your heart as well. 

As always, I write these birthday letters to you late at night, so its likely a jumbled mess, much like my parenting skills, but I think you catch my drift.  I'm headed to bed now, as I have to get you up and cook your breakfast in about 4 hours.

Yours,
Daddy


To Campbell, on your 5th birthday
To Campbell, on your 4th birthday (with links to previous letters)
Learning the A-Word
My Kid Has the Autism

Thursday, August 31, 2017

the geneva walmart

So, the Wal-Mart in Geneva, AL, turns 30 today, this the last day of August.

Here you see Birmingham, Troy, Samson,
and Geneva. The pink dots are bigger than
the actual towns themselves.
Let me set the geography for the many of you that have no clue where I'm talking about. I'm from a little town called Samson, population 2100, with 2 red lights and a caution light, and 40ish members of the graduation class of 1993.  Our family moved to 201 N. Johnson Street in 1984, then across the side street to 211 North Johnson Street in 1985, and finally, 208 N. Johnson Street in 1986... yes, we moved one house over, across a street, then moved across N. Johnson to another house, and that would be the home I lived in until I moved off to college in the fall of 1993.

Samson has two main roads - the aforementioned N. Johnson, which runs north to south, and Hwy 52, which runs east to west, and essentially is the "downtown" part of Samson, Alabama.  So if you left my house, took a left once you hit town at Hwy 52, and then drove 8 miles... past the Subway/Dollar General (is that still there?) and the old peanut mill, past the log cabin house, past the pipe plant thing, past the McInnis' veterinarian office, past the caution light, past the cutoff road to go to Joey Stephens' old house and where Forrest & Charlotte Wright live (and Sandy and Cristie too), and yes, past the Sunny Meadows Cemetery (rest in peace, Jennifer W-B) you'll come to the Geneva County seat, a small city called Geneva, Alabama.

And if you did all of these things on August 31st, 1987, you'd see the brand spankin' new Walmart. To my 12 year old self, this was amazing.  I had only heard tale of such discount stores, but to have a Walmart here?  Eight miles from my house??  I mean... that was even cooler than the McDonald's in Geneva (which would be about 9 miles from my house), or the movie theaters in Enterprise (around 20 miles from my house), or even the brand new Wiregrass Commons Mall in Dothan (I lived 45 miles from a mall... those were the days).

This Walmart was amazing!  It had records and tapes, and clothes, and cool things and other cool things and it was HUGE.  I mean, not as big as that new Walmart Supercenter that opened in Enterprise in what, 1989?  But still.  A Walmart was 8 miles from me.  So awesome.

And I frequented that Walmart.  Frequently.

As a matter of fact, I can tell you with certainty that in the time it opened until I moved to Troy in 1993, I purchased the following:

The majesty of the Walmart in Geneva. To 12 year old me, it was a castle.
To 42 year old me, its a quaint reminder of childhood. 

  • Debbie Gibson's "Out of the Blue" album on vinyl, and considering it just turned 30 itself, this might be the first thing I ever purchased from a Walmart.  
  • The soundtrack to the movie "Cocktail", also on vinyl
  • A Valentine's gift for my high school girlfriend Cindy H, which I believe was pajamas
  • A birthday gift for my friend Stephanie Phillips, who said after her birthday that I didn't even get her a card. She was kidding, but I bought her a shirt.  Nowadays, a "shirt from Walmart" doesn't sound as nice as "a shirt from Target" or "a shirt from Macys", but to me, it was an awesome gift. It was white with pink stripes. It had shoulder pads. Yes, looking back, it was probably not very fashionable, and to Stephanie's credit, she wore it at least once.  But I bought it with my own money, so it's the thought that counts, right? Right.
  • Tons of paper and notebooks for the stories I wrote in junior high and high school, and I wrote a ton. By hand. I wore mechanical pencils slap out (of which I also bought at Walmart)
  • Starship's "Knee Deep in the Hoopla" and The Jets' self titled album, both on cassette. I loved The Jets
  • A pair of silk boxer shorts, just because I wanted to find out what silk boxers felt like. They ride. Bad.
  • My first tennis racket. I was inspired by Jennifer Capriati and Wimbledon back in the day, and I played tennis regularly for the next 15 to 20 years. 
  • Amy Grant's "That's What Love is For" on cassette single. I still have it.  Love that song.
  • Cathy King's baby shower gift, which was a carseat.  She was a classmate of mine, and to be fair, High School Girlfriend Cindy H and I bought it together.
  • Angie Jay's homecoming gift, because she was my date in October 1992. Until Bradley Miller screwed that up.  Don't remember the gift, but I never gave it.  There's a high school story for you. 
  • A ficus tree for Ms Peterson, my civics teacher, because her kindness saved my Troy scholarship. I left after my last final as a high school student, sped down to the Geneva Walmart, bought it and sped back, putting it in her classroom before her planning period was over.   


This Walmart holds a ton of memories for me, and I'm glad it's still open. And I'm actually glad it's not 24 hours -- its hours are something like 7a to 9p or maybe even 10p on the weekends.  And whereas the Walmart (formerly a "Supercenter", but now just called "Walmart") that is about 4 minutes from my home through traffic is a behemoth of a building, the Geneva Walmart is less than 150 paces from one side to the other.  I know because I've counted it.  150 paces would get you out of the grocery department and maybe past the self service checkout at the Walmart on Hwy 280, close to me.

And when I have a few extra minutes as I'm coming through Samson (with my old house being sold, there isn't a lot of "coming to" Samson now), I'll drive down Hwy 52, stop at Sunny Meadows and see my friend Jennifer for a minute, then stop in the Geneva Walmart. Sometimes just to walk around, though that doesn't take long. Sometimes to remember where I used to purchase records, then cassettes, then the Plexiglas case that had CD long boxes -- CD players were too fancy for my blood in 1992, I tell you.

So, happy 30th birthday, Geneva Walmart. May you be around another 30, and I'll see you soon, I'm sure.

(Many thanks to my friend Amy Warr for retweeting the WTVY-TV link that alerted me to this great holiday -- you can read their story here, though mine is better)




Friday, June 30, 2017

we wants the redhead

So, I'm a big Disney guy, but I'm not a PC guy. I think political correctness is ruining many things in the country because it's an overused term.   

Having said that, I met the news that Disney is changing up the "redhead auction" scene in the Pirates of the Caribbean attraction at Disney World with mixed feelings. 

In case you aren't familiar with the famous ride, you board a boat, which takes you through a journey through dimly lit pirate scenes. Speaking mostly of the Disney World version (thought Disneyland is very similar), you pass by a mermaid skeleton, a skeleton steering a ghost ship, down a small pitch black incline, then in between a battle between a ship and a fort. The rest of the ride will take you through various comical scenes with pirates looting and drinking and plundering and so on, with World featuring Jack Sparrow, and Land being more traditional.

There is a scene in the second half that shows an auction for... well, women.  Audio animatronics of various sizes stand, waiting to be sold, as one of the pirates yells out "We wants the redhead!" referring to a more attractive... well, woman for sale.  Yes, it's a robot, but you feel me.

Some years ago, during a refurbishment, some scenes were changed to have some of the women weilding rolling pins chasing their men (as opposed to the other way around, as it was for decades before).  Disney now wants both men and women pirates/robots to be involved in looting and buying random things at the auction.

From what I've seen on social media, most people do not want this change, want Disney to leave well enough alone and are "tired of all this PC crap and tired of companies like Disney giving in to the small minority of people who want to change it!", or some such.

At first, I thought "Why not leave well enough alone?"  I mean, it's been like that for a long time, and Disney has monorails that need to be fixed, they have garbage cans that need to be emptied way more than before, pricing is going up, Universal is atop its game and so on -- I mean, Disney has bigger fish to fry, right?

And yet...

There's something about selling a person that bugs me.  Even if it's a robot. 

If Splash Mountain depicted the selling of a slave, or at least a black slave (as that's how we usually think of "slavery"), Magic Kingdom would burn to the ground.  Heck, they won't even release the movie "Song of the South" in the US for sale or streaming (I support it being available, by the way), and so why do we think the selling of females, even depicted as campy, silly characters, are okay?

Let me stop here.  I have a feeling by now, some of you reading are thinking,  "What are you talking about?  You're falling for the same PC crap that Disney is giving in to!" and those who really know me are probably saying "Really? What about you being against (fill in hot topic of the day that I've given my opinion on in recent months) but you support this??"  For that answer, I can definitively... I don't know.  I have no idea.

I do know this, though.  Slavery, at least in this country as we know it, doesn't exist. Trafficking does.  Trafficking is not okay.  Even when it's robots.  

Gosh, I sound silly, don't I?  Robots don't traffic.  They do what they are programmed to do. And it's an old attraction back when making such amusing jokes and scenes were acceptable.  And honestly, I'm sure it's acceptable today... but I really am not bothered by Disney's move to change things up. 

I guess I just pictured some 18 year old girl who'd spent 4 years being trapped in the slave trade (re: sex trafficking), but now free and enjoying a day of magic and fun at Magic Kingdom... and seeing a scene with silly, stupid, goofy looking robot pirates that ended up reminding her of how she was stolen from her family years ago, sold to some billionaire and sent to a foreign country... or a nearby county. 

So that's it. Maybe I'm silly, and I don't plan on defending my position other than what I've stated. I have no problem with people being mad about Disney changing the scene... and if Disney makes an about face and decides to leave as is, I'll probably be fine with it.

But taking out the part where women are sold into slavery?  I'm okay with it. 

Friday, February 17, 2017

top ten books of 2016

Read the other two posts that precede this.... first, my love of audiobooks, and second, the books that didn't make the top ten.

HONORABLE MENTION

"Superheroes Are For Real" by Ethan Bryan (2016)
I didn't count this in my Top Ten, as it's a children's book, but it's still worth the 15 minutes it takes to read.  It glorious comic book style color, its the story of a little girl who sees her dad as... well, a superhero.  It's so much fun, and such a sweet story, and my favorite anecdote from Ethan Bryan (who is a friend of mine, and pasty white) is "Someone asked me why the dad and daughter in the story are black.  My answer was 'Why not?'"  Get this book and read to and with your kids.

Oh, hey Anna Kendrick.  How you?
10 - "Scrappy Little Nobody" by Anna Kendrick (2016)
One of my favorite "new era" of actresses, as in, those in their 20s who we are witnessing the early part of what will be a long career (see, "Stone, Emma" or "Watson, Emma"), she writes various stories of her coming-up, from theater to auditions to love to life in general, all with a sort of awkward tone... because as fun as she may be, she's awkward, and that's part of her charm.

9 - "End of Watch" by Stephen King (2016)
After "Mr. Mercedes" and "Finders Keepers" (which I think is the best in the trilogy), King ends the Bill Hodges Trilogy with the reemergence of the Brady Hartsfield, the villain in the first one (with only a cameo in the second). Its a solid ending, and a great effort.  Will Patton is a regular King narrator, and though his female voices border the line between decent and silly, its still a great journey.

8 - "Right for a Reason: Life, Liberty & a Crapload of Common Sense" by Miriam Weaver and Amy Jo Clark, aka The Chicks on the Right (2014)
Let's put it this way... if you are conservative, you'll love this indictment of Black Lives Matter, Hillary Clinton, the liberal media, the hypocrisy of Hollywood and more. If you are a liberal, you will think this book is full of crap.  You can probably tell where I fall on that spectrum.

Oh, and she does.  Lauren Graham is one of my favorites on TV, playing one of my favorite TV roles ever -- Lorelei Gilmore -- and this is a quick dash through her early career, her experience on Gilmore Girls and the awesomeness of the new Gilmore Girls series.  She's full of jokes and one-liners (most land, a few do not) and great energy, and you just want to sit with her and ask all the questions about all the things. 

Before he was the best selling author of "Pride & Prejudice & Zombies" (along with "Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter", which was turned into one of the worst films I've seen in recent memory), Grahame-Smith wrote up this little ditty about what to do when facing the travails and problems of a horror film. You'll learn what to do when faced with such horrors as cannibalistic hillbillies, serial killers, zombies, vampires, haunted Japanese videocassettes and more.  It's the funniest book I read all year, and anyone who's ever watched a coed go into a dark basement with a low-bulb flashlight in a film will appreciate the pop culture here.

This book is crazy good. Two parallel stories -- one is Daniel Burnham, an architect who was given the task of constructing and pulling off the 1893 World's Fair in Chicago.  The other is the story of H.H. Holmes, who was a sadistic killer who built a "murder castle", full of torture rooms and dead bodies... and both stories intertwine even though the Burnham and Holmes rarely cross paths within the story itself.  While Burnham's story is compelling, dealing with the politics and limitations of the day in an effort to make what was then one of the biggest events on the planet, its Holmes' story that brings this book to life. The building he constructed was pure evil, purposely built for killing and disposing of lots of bodies, many of them being women and children.  Oh, and this isn't a fiction book -- this is a true story, soon to be a movie with Leonard DiCaprio.

SIDEBAR... I finished the last 4 hours of this book while on a plane headed to Anaheim for training in Disneyland last September.  I was around 30 minutes from completion as I walked out of John Wayne Airport towards the Disney transportation area.  And I spent the entire trip from the airport to the Disneyland listening to the rest of the book, literally hearing the last few words as the bus rolled to a stop in front of the Grand Californian.  True story.

4 - "The Whistler" by John Grisham (2016)

Investigator Lacy Stoltz and her partner Hugo Hatch get a call from a mysterious source named Myers, who has information on the corruption at a high judicial level centering on a casino on the Tappacola Indian Reservation in the Florida panhandle.  Thus begins the unfolding of a tense tale of mafia, bad judges, money laundering and more.  Grisham went through a period of novels that told a good story and had terrible endings (I'm looking at you, "The Appeal"), but his last four or five have been at the least solid and at their best, stellar.  This falls somewhere in between, but I really enjoyed the twists.   Note:  Make sure you get a copy of the "prequel", "Witness to a Trial", available on Kindle and Audible.com -- its not mandatory, but it sets up "The Whistler" really, really well.

Flynn novels always have ominous
and cool covers
3 - "Sharp Objects" by Gillian Flynn (2006)
I avoided this book for a while, because while I enjoyed "Gone Girl", and really loved "Dark Places" (avoid the movie, its terrible), I wasn't sure if I wanted to read a tale about a chick who cuts herself obsessively.  Finally, though, I felt I needed to read it to cross off all of Flynn's novels.  And I'm glad I did.  Camille Preaker is a journalist with many, many issues, who is sent by her tiny newspaper to her Missouri hometown to investigate the murder of a little girl.  Soon, another body shows up, and Camille and detective Richard Willis -- also her love interest -- try to unravel this case.  And it keeps taking bizarre turns, culminating in an ending that I sorta saw coming, but was thrilling nonetheless. 

I've heard rumors that Flynn has a new novel coming out in May, and I'm sure I'll be listening to it the day it's released.

Being a pop culture junkie, how about a book that essentially runs down the Top 100 television shows of all time, gives an additional list of "almost there" shows and another list of shows that could make future lists.  They start right out of the gate with their Top Five, as they go back and forth on which one could actually be the greatest show of all time -- The Simpsons, Mad Men, Breaking Bad, The Wire, Cheers or The Sopranos.  (I'll let you read to find out how they end up finally ranking out)

It's a great reminder of the history of television, as they dive deep into old shows like The Rifleman, Twilight Zone and Dark Shadows, and argue over how good or how bad shows like The Brady Bunch and Gilligan's Island were.  It's a fat stack of 436 pages, but I breezed through it, wondering where my favorite all time TV shows ranked... hint:  Out of The Wonder Years, Facts of Life and Scarecrow & Mrs King, only one of them showed up.  Sad!

SIDEBAR: It's no secret I'm slowly working on my own book.  It's a movie book, and it pretty much discusses my favorite 500 films of all time. I'd already decided the "talk about one by one" format was how I was going to go, and the fact this works so well here makes me comfortable in my own decision.

And.. the best book I read all year...



Just re-watched this movie this week. Its got
great re-watchability.
Math confuses me sometimes, so you toss in elements of subprime lending, collateralized debt obligation (CDO) and credit default swaps, and I'm all like "Huh?"  Enter Michael Lewis, the amazing author of "The Blind Side" and "Moneyball", two books (and movies) I love very much.  Lewis' take on the housing market collapse of the mid-2000s that led to the bankruptcy and demise of generations old firms like Bear Stearns and Lehman Brothers is fantastic, and spelled out pretty easily. There is still a lot to absorb, and I'd be lying if I told you I understood most half of it, at least well enough to explain it to you, but I did come away with an full understanding of it. 

The characters in the book have depth -- especially since they are real people -- including Howie Hubler who literally lost $900 Billion (that's with a B, not a typo) in a SINGLE DAY... Steven Eisman, a hedge fund manager who is working to system to get rich and yet is still appalled by the entire thing... and Michael Burry, a market analyst with Asperger's, who saw the collapse coming and pushed through the derision and criticism of everyone else to make a boatload of cash at the end. 

If you've seen the equally excellent movie "The Big Short", Christian Bale portrays the Burry character, and what you see on camera -- the nervousness, the loud music, the shorts and t-shirt in the office, the slight lisp and speech impediment, the socially awkward style -- is exactly who he is in the book. 

SIDEBAR:  Personally, I thought he and Tom Hardy's character in "The Revenant" were miles ahead of anyone else in 2014 and should have split the Best Supporting Actor Oscar which went to the undeserving Mark Rylance in "Bridge of Spies", but that's me. I mean, its my opinion, but I'm still right.

So there ya go...  my favorite ten books of the year!